Eating Local

Looking for an easy entry into the local food movement?  Already into local foods and want more?  Wonder whether local meats can really differ from what’s in the supermarket?  Today I’m excited to talk about an amazing local foods speaker coming to UNC, navigating the local farmers’ markets and area restaurants that serve local food.

So, this past fall break, I almost drove 3 hours to buy chicken and eggs from a farm I’m enamored with, and I’ve been a vegetarian for 5 years.  This farm – Polyface, Inc. – is the farm of Joel Salatin, a third generation farmer.  If you’ve watched Food, Inc., read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, or been around the local food/sustainable agriculture movement, then you’ve probably already heard of Joel Salatin.  His farm is known for producing food (particularly beef, pork and poultry) that’s beyond organic.  The farming practices at Polyface are creative, innovative and animal-friendly.  If you eat meat, have ever thought about where your food comes from, or wanted to know if there’s a better way than run-of-the-mill industrial agriculture, then I hope you’re as excited as I am that Joel is coming to UNC!

The event “Local Food: Talk and Taste” features alternative farmer and local food advocate Joel Salatin and is on Wednesday April 13th at 5:00 PM. The event is sponsored by the UNC Sustainability Office as a part of Earth Week celebration.  Joel is an entertaining and dynamic speaker, and if that’s not enough, delicious local food tastings will follow prepared in part by one of my new favorite restaurants: Vimala’s Curryblossom Café.

Stuck in class Wednesday evening?  Well, you can still get into local foods by checking out one of the area’s farmers’ markets or local restaurants that serve local.   Here’s a quick guide to when, where and how to navigate a market successfully.

The following farmers’ markets are all producer-only markets which means that the seller is the farmer or artisan who produced the product.  And these goods really are local – each market requires that products are produced within a 70 mile radius.

Carrboro Farmers’ Market:  Saturdays from 7:00 AM – noon and opening April 13th on Wednesdays from 3:30 – 6:30 pm.  Located on Carrboro Town Commons, next to Town Hall, at 301 W. Main St., Carrboro, NC.  In addition to cash, you can use credit, debit and EBT/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards to purchase wooden tokens, called “Truck Bucks,” which can be spent like cash throughout the market.

Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market: Saturdays from 8:00 AM – noon and opening in May, Tuesdays 3:00 – 6:00 PM.  Located at University Mall outside of A Southern Season at 201 South Estes Drive.

Durham Farmers’ Market: Saturdays from 8:00 AM – noon and opening April 20th on Wednesdays from 3:30 – 6:30 PM.  Located in the Pavilion at Durham Central Park, 501 Foster Street in the heart of downtown Durham.

Now I have to admit that after years of going to farmers’ markets, I still have a minor panic attack when I arrive, particularly to larger ones like the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.  There can be lots of people (unless you’re there close to opening or closing), and all the options can be overwhelming.  Personally I like to take a lap around when I get there to check out what’s for sale at the different vendors that day.  Then I go back and ask questions at the booths I’m interested in.  How was that grown?  What kind of fertilizer and pesticides do you use?  How do you cook it?  How should I store it?  How long will it keep?

Other shopping tips to make your visit easier: bring a sturdy bag or two to carry heavy items, leave your dog at home since they aren’t allowed at the market due to health regulations, and remember that farmers are excited to talk to you about what they’ve grown – they farm because they love doing it and they’ve probably spent most of their week in the fields anyway and will be excited to talk to someone new.

If you want to enjoy local foods but know that you won’t be the one who will cook them, check out these area restaurants that serve local: Margret’s Cantina, Vimalaya’s Curryblossom Café, Panzanella, Neal’s Deli, Sage, Maple View Farms, Lantern and Sandwhich.  There’s also 1.5.0. and Greens on campus.  By no means is this an exhaustive list of nearby restaurants that serve local foods.  Please comment with your favorite restaurant that serves local!

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